Heavy Lies the Crown

I’m back, and I’ve completed both books of Samuel. They are hard ones to process. There is a lot of good and bad behavior going on. There are consequential rewards and punishments happening. My finite mind struggles with them, because sometimes it seems as if good behavior is punished and bad is rewarded. Far be it from me (they say this phrase a lot in Samuel’s day) to think I can know the mind of God. Or the motives of men.

I don’t want to go into detail about these two books. They are filled with events that are definitely not p.c. Suffice it to say that people are weird.

Moving on, the quilt block is King David’s Crown

The passage in the Bible Sampler Quilt book recounts the battle of Rabbah. David took the king’s crown right off his head, and placed it on his own. “The weight of it was a talent of gold with the precious stones.” That sounds pretty heavy to me.

The title of my post actually refers to Shakespeare, when he wrote “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown” in Henry IV. I take this to mean that the worries and responsibilities that come with leadership can never be set aside, even in sleep.

But I think King David is able to do just that. For example, even when he had his faithful soldier Uriah killed in order to cover up his goings on with Bathsheba, (and the baby had to die, too) he declared that against God only had he sinned. Whaaat? And at the end of the second book of Samuel, David speaks his last words. He states that he was “blameless before God”, “kept the ways of the Lord”, was “rewarded for his righteousness” had “clean hands” and so on (22:21-25). Whaaat?

Again, far be it from me to find fault in the man that was after God’s own heart. For some reason David is favored by God even after he blows it big time. And David has the chutzpah to walk in the joy of that forgiveness as if it completely wiped away his sinful actions that caused so much pain and suffering to his innocent victims.

Yep, I’m preaching to the choir here, the choir being myself. I think the message embedded in these passages for me today is to realize where God’s favor lies. It isn’t gained by lifestyle, but by love. I am so quick to judge David by his lifestyle, especially when it comes to the women in his life. He is so not politically correct.

But God deals with the heart. He tells Saul that “To obey is better than sacrifice” when Saul keeps trying to force his way into God’s favor through action.

Unlike Saul, King David realizes that it is not what we do for God that earns us favor, it’s recognizing what God does for us.

That’s why King David can dance and sing and declare himself clean before God. He reminds me of the song, “Fields of Grace” by Big Daddy Weave:

https://youtu.be/kfv-1CNomcU

Bullfrogs and Butterflies

I’m departing from the Bible Sampler again to share wonder with you all:

These painted lady butterflies are moving west. They are buffeted by wind and cold. They fly apart from each other, beating the air with iridescent wings. So delicate, so strong. They have graced my home by choosing it for their flight path. They stop to refuel:

They’ve been passing overhead for three days now. Bless their hearts.

I’ve been gardening, and look who was buried in my flowerbed:

I think he was too cold to put up a fuss, but he was able to give me the stink eye:

His eyes were psychedelic. Bless his heart.

Did you listen during these videos? Did you hear the thunderous booms? They are the sounds of freedom, courtesy of the United States Marine Corps.

Bless their hearts.

P.S. Did anyone else think of the Barry McGuire children’s song?

Paradoxes and Juxtapositions Pt. 2

I’ve been letting the Bible Sampler quilt blocks set my pace through the books of the Bible at a very fast clip. I’m racing through rich, complex, and symbolic events. My mind has been blown more than a few times with new revelations I missed in previous readings. But the eye candy opportunity of sharing the new quilt block in each post drives me ever forward. I am having so much fun.

But I’m going to slam on the brakes and pause in First Samuel for today’s post. Something happened, and my brain added it to my mental list that includes Mary and Martha, and the prodigal son, and King David.

Here’s what happened. Well, first I need to back up a little. While reading through the books of Joshua, Judges, and Ruth, I was impressed that the children of Israel functioned pretty well without a strong central government. They did what seemed right in their own eyes. They appointed local judges and abided by their rulings when issues arose. But those glory days passed away with the first generation of Israelites. The younger generation clamored for a king so they would be like the other nations. The high priest, Samuel, tried to talk them out of it. What could be better than having God as your king? They would not be convinced, so he gave in to their whining and anointed Saul.

I don’t think Saul wanted this job. I say this because he was hiding when it was time for Samuel to present him as king to his people. Think about it, he didn’t step into an established position with a specific job description. There was no mentor. Even so, he got a few successful battles under his belt right away. The people were happy. But now the dreaded Philistines were marching towards him. Samuel told Saul to gather the people and wait there. Then Samuel would follow in seven days and tell him what to do next.

I don’t know what King Saul was feeling, but I would have been aware that the men were looking to me for leadership and action. I’d have felt the need to prove my kingly worth by appearing to be in complete control of the situation. Captains were probably pressing him as each day passed; which gave the Philistines the advantage of time. Time was of the essence here. King Saul’s answer wasn’t what they wanted to hear: “Wait”. As he said this out loud, he was probably screaming in his head, “Where IS that old Samuel and what’s taking him so long?”

After a few days the men got so restless that they began to scatter. On the seventh day, Saul said, “Forget this”, he grabbed the sacrifice and made a burnt offering to God before heading out to confront the Philistines. Apparently this was the wrong thing to do.

WHAT? Cut the guy some slack! Aren’t we going to give Saul credit for making the effort to acknowledge God? He was only trying to do good.

But no. Who should finally arrive as the offering is cooling on the altar? Yep, Samuel, and he is not pleased. He tells Saul that he has acted foolishly. And furthermore, because he didn’t follow the command of the Lord, the Lord will NEVER establish his kingdom over Israel. Wow. Talk about your consequences. Geez.

I would have done the exact same thing. In fact, I’ve gotta hand it to Saul for waiting it out all seven days. I would have been nearly crazed by day three. And no cell phone signal meant I couldn’t call to learn what the hold up was with Samuel. His chariot could be stuck in a ditch, or worse, right? If he could get a message to me, I bet he’d say: “Go on and start without me. Please go ahead with the burnt offering, and the Lord be with you”. Right?

And Mary and Martha? If Mary would’ve just cared a little bit and helped out in the kitchen, Martha could’ve relaxed and enjoyed Jesus’ visit too. And the prodigal son? I’d have joined big brother in resenting all the fuss and nonsense over that slacker. And David? How dare he say, “Against thee, and thee alone have I sinned” when he actually left noble men dead in his selfish wake. Don’t they get it?

Here’s the thing.

I have an authority problem. My reaction to these seemingly-to-me unjust consequences show my lack of trust and lack of patience. The love chapter in First Corinthians begins with “Love is patient”. Patience demonstrates both love and trust: Trust in God’s authority that He will do all things in His time. Saul stepped away from his faith and took matters into his own hands. He meant well, but his action revealed his true soul. He hadn’t given over all of himself to God. Neither did Martha, or David, or the prodigal’s brother. Like Mary, the sister of Martha, they could have received “the better part” that God had planned for them if they had just trusted in His timing and His provision.

It doesn’t help that I live in a “Get ‘er done” society that values busy-ness and speed. It doesn’t help me practice patience. But I’m glad I took the time to ruminate on 1 Samuel 13.

No quilt block today, but here’s some eye candy for you. Meet my dogs, Heidi and Emma: This is what relaxing looks like.

34. Paradoxes and Juxtapositions

You may have noticed that I’ve slowed down posting my posts. This is so that my Bible reading can catch up to the quilt blocks. I’ve raced through Joshua, Judges, and Ruth in order to reach the book of Samuel and this next block:

David and Goliath Quilt Block

Please don’t look too closely. I’ve said more than once that Y-seams aren’t my favorite. And besides, it’ll quilt out.

I’m in that region of the Bible that involves a lot of violence. As I’m plowing through the pages, the Israelites are plundering through the promised land. I’m reading accounts of bloody massacres, horrific tortures, and unspeakable abuses happening one after the other. I feel a bit uncomfortable trying to discuss this with you and then tying in the pleasant part, the quilting. The two are too juxtaposed.

God told Joshua that the promised land had to be purged of all Canaanites. In my last post, I talked about how Joshua did his part and conquered the kingdoms. He then portioned out the promised land among the twelve tribes. It was now up to them to go to their new homelands and finish the job. Some did, but more didn’t. They allowed the Canaanites to stay, and over time, infect them with their idolatries and sins.

God had required 100%, and the Israelites gave him maybe 85%. That’s a solid B; and any parent would be happy to see this grade on little junior’s report card. But God’s law doesn’t work that way. The Israelites were severely punished and by the time I got through the book of Ruth they had been enslaved by their enemies more than once. These enemies, by the way, could have been destroyed back when God was doing the heavy lifting for His children in battle. But no, His children grew lazy and wishy washy when it came to working out the plan. They had settled for a “B” when God required an A+.

It was the Philistines who were battling the tribe of Judah, and winning, when David stepped up to take on Goliath in chapter 17. Young David had the same clarity of mind that Joshua and Moses shared. He told Goliath that he came in the name of the Lord, and it was the Lord who would deliver Goliath into his hand. You know how it turns out for Goliath. It seems as if the Israelites are heading towards being back on track.

The paradox of the loving God I serve and the punishing God of these Old Testament books is not lost on me. Suffice it to say that this is where I’m relieved to be a confessional Christian. I don’t need to explain Him, or understand it all myself. What I do understand is God has made the way for us to achieve our A+ through His son, as long as we allow him 100% access. I’m glad I’m living in the age of and the state of grace. Like David, I can trust that God fights, and wins, the battle for us.

It’ll all quilt out.

33. Ark #3

I’ve read through Deuteronomy. In chapter ten Moses described the ark he built of acacia wood to hold the second set of stone tablets. After reviewing the Ten Commandments with the children of Israel; Moses got to the essence of the Law. It all boiled down to – wait for it – love.

Doesn’t it always boil down to love?

The ark of acacia wood held God’s love notes to us. I’m referring to The Ten Commandments. I know, laws are inherently punitive. And Moses warns the people more than once that they must fear God. Wise King Solomon tells us in Proverbs that fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. How can we both fear and love someone at the same time?

I’ve also read through the next book, the book of Joshua. It’s a change from the first five books of the Bible. Basically, the Pentateuch gave the chosen people the law and a promise. These next twelve books will tell how they attempted to live out that law and embrace the covenant God made with them.

So how does this apply to us? If you ask a believer what words come to mind when you say “God” they will respond with: creator, protector, savior, and father. If you ask a non-believer they may say words like: judge, intolerant, and condemnation.

In truth, God fits all of these descriptions. In the book of Joshua, the Israelites are commanded to claim their promised land and take no prisoners. Joshua is on board with this plan, and with God, conquers all 31 kings and their kingdoms are brought into submission. We are all familiar with how he brought down the kingdom of Jericho.

Ruins of Jericho Quilt Block

God required complete annihilation of all foreigners in the promised land. Joshua was going to each kingdom and destroying them one by one. But there were bumps in the road. When some of God’s chosen army strayed from God’s commands, the penalty was swift and severe. For example, when Achan hid forbidden loot in his tent after conquering Ai, he was stoned to death along with his entire household. God was not messing around.

So how does this apply to us again? The way I see it, God hasn’t changed. He’s still not messing around when it comes to His law. So then how am I to behave in this modern humanistic society of tolerance?

I am to love. They will know we are Christians by our love. Jesus tells us to be fishers of men. We are not responsible for cleaning the fish. The Great Commission sends us out to be witnesses of the truth. So I won’t apologize for the black and white truths of God’s word. I will confess them with my mouth and leave the consequences to the One who wrote those words. I both fear and love the Lord, and can trust Him as I live in the gray areas.

This is the third ark I’ve described in this blog. The first, of course, is Noah’s ark. The second is Moses’ basket, and now the third: the Ark of the Covenant, which holds the stone tablets, Aaron’s rod, and the pot of manna. All three arks carry salvation for those that will take the offer of the free ride.

A song written by John Fisher ends with these lyrics:

“I’m not one who’s got it all in place, telling you what you should do,

No, I’m just one old hungry beggar, showing you where I found food”.

I believe he was inspired by Martin Luther. On his deathbed, this handwritten note was found in his pocket:

“Wir sind bettler. Das ist wahr”. “We are all beggars. This is true.”

I have nothing to add to this. Its power guided a Reformation that changed the world.

32. Less is More

Borrow and Lend Block

God invented math. So this equation from Jude 2 is His:

“May mercy, peace and love be multiplied to you”.

I used to joke with my kids in their preteen years when they had not the wherewithal to give “real” presents for birthdays. I didn’t mind, gift giving is not my love language. Handmade expressions of love are; and I have kept their priceless homemade treasures to this day. They were so busy with life, some of my birthdays went ungifted. When their birthdays approached, I’d say, “I’m going to give you twice as much as you gave me”. They were smart and did the math before expressing any mistaken enthusiasm.

But God can multiply “nothing” and get “something”. He abounds in steadfast love. When we think we’ve depleted our quota of grace, He doubles down with mercy, peace and love. This just doesn’t equate in my finite mind.

In this passage, we are reminded of God’s abundant blessings. Our response is to be generous in our giving, to lend but not borrow. Deuteronomy is kind of like Moses’ farewell address. For the first time, you can really hear author’s voice in the scriptures. Moses writes in first person. He recounts all the events that occurred in his lifetime. So we get a great recap of the Book of Numbers in case we missed it the first time. To hear of all the successful conquests listed one after the other, you marvel at Moses’ leadership. Yet God described Moses as “meek”. It is true that in our weakness is His strength revealed. And God abundantly poured on the blessings to His chosen people.

We also live in a world of incredible abundance. We are all rich. And if we make more than $40,000 a year, we are in the top 4% worldwide from all time.

We can have everything we need and want. Millions of us have more than we can hold and the storage unit industry is booming. I heard that it produces wealth that surpasses the Hollywood industry. And Hollywood is a large part of the reason why California would be #5 in the world if it was a country.

From this first world position, simplicity can be an indulgence. Minimalism can be a lifestyle choice rather than a predicament. We have the luxury of leisure, so we can practice mindfulness about every little detail of our lives. We can consider what sparks our joy. (Marie Kondo). Good times.

It’s trendy, too. The side of a huge semi truck I saw yesterday was advertising “Abundance in Simplicity”. It was a Cadia yogurt ad. Figure that out.

Abundance in simplicity. Less is more. Live simply so others may simply live.

Do the math:

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

-Jim Elliot

Numbers

Let’s just say that numbers are not my favorite. I’m not a math person. I attribute this partly to my age. “New Math” was the trending phase of the sixties. Looking back with an educator’s lens, I realize now that my elementary school teachers weren’t ready to roll it out when it was thrust upon them. The reluctant attitude that accompanied the math sessions rubbed off on me. By the time I hit junior high I was lost in the chalk dust of algebra. My teacher never turned around to face us as he covered the blackboard with formulas and droned on and on. (Think Charlie Brown’s teacher).

I rectified my deficiency in college. I finally learned how math works in my “Math for Elementary Educators” methods classes. My brilliant professor took us back to the basic building blocks and we mastered the tower of mathematical concepts with enthusiasm. (Up through the eighth grade level; Rome wasn’t built in a day). When it was my turn to teach math in my classroom, I LOVED attacking, and conquering, mathematics with the children. It was like playing games with numbers.

But those teaching days are done. Now I get to play with fabric and I find myself avoiding math if I can. I am a visual quilter. When designing my own quilts, I never measure or count. It’s more fun for me this way. I just keep letting it grow on a spare bed used as a design wall until it looks done. Here’s an example:

The Bible Sampler Quilt does not have a block to accompany the book of Numbers. As I started reading through the book, I realized, it begins with math. Plain and simple. Counting the members of the twelve tribes of Israel and arranging them geometrically around the tabernacle, the book began with lots of lists and numbers.

As a nod to the book of Numbers, I’m going to count the number of pieces in my Bible Sampler quilt. Jane Stickles did:

When I made the Farmers Wife Sampler Quilt, I jumped in with little forethought or design plan. Considering concepts of color theory seemed boring so I skipped this tedium when pulling the scraps for each block. I enjoyed putting things together that looked nice. As is the way, things began to dawn on me as I went along. I realized that there needs to be “punch” so the latter half of the blocks have more contrast than the first. I realized there’s value in addressing the value and saturation of colors as well as their, well, color. My flimsy:

The Dear Jane is on many quilters’ bucket lists. I know myself well enough to say with utmost certainty that I will not ever never ever hand stitch a Dear Jane Quilt. But I love everything about it: the surprising blocks, the amazing border, the soft colors, her hand scripted “label” in the corner. Everything comes together beautifully and I marvel at her design sense.

Her palette inspired me as I considered taking on the Bible Sampler Quilt project. If you recall, I wasn’t enthusiastic at the prospect. I told you in my first blogpost that I had just finished the FWS quilt. Motivation came when I decided to read through the Bible as I worked the blocks. It grew when I challenged myself to paper piece every single block, all 96 of them. But that was only half of it. Along with “numbers”, “decisions” are also not my favorite. Choosing the fabric is a stressful step in my process. Here, I could copy Jane Stickles’ good color sense and stick with two-color blocks, with white as my neutral. The fabric would be limited to the scraps in my repro bin. As icing on the cake, I would sash it with thin white strips, and write the number of pieces on the label. Once the plan was clear, I was good to go.

And I’m having lots of fun. My numbers game: So far I’m up to 997 pieces. I’ve completed 30 blocks. That’s an average of 34 pieces per block. The most pieces so far in a single block was 81. The fewest was nine. I don’t know what the total number will be, I’m looking forward to that excitement with the final top finish.